Horse trainer penalised
8 July 2022
The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a penalty in court against the operator of a horse training business in Victoria.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $6,660 penalty against Jessica Lee Schneider, a sole trader who operates a business trading as ‘Vengeance Performance Horses’ based at Lovely Banks, near Geelong.
The penalty was imposed in response to Ms Schneider failing to comply with Compliance Notices requiring her to back-pay two young workers and failing to issue the workers with pay slips.
The workers, aged 16 and 21 during their employment, were employed part-time at Ms Schneider’s business for periods of approximately three months and six months, until January 2021. They performed various duties associated with training and caring for horses.
The Court has also ordered Ms Schneider to comply with the Compliance Notices. The Compliance Notices require Ms Schneider to back-pay the workers in full.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.
“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.
“Protecting vulnerable workers, including young workers, remains a priority for us. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
The FWO investigated after receiving requests for assistance from the affected workers.
Two Compliance Notices were issued in March 2021 after an inspector formed a belief that the workers had been underpaid minimum wages and weekend penalty rates under the Miscellaneous Award 2020.
Judge Amanda Mansini found Ms Schneider’s non-compliance with the Compliance Notices was indicative of her “prioritisation of her own interests over her responsibilities as an employer”.
“In my view, (Ms Schneider’s) conduct demonstrates a failure to recognise the seriousness of her non-compliance with a statutory notice and a failure to properly acknowledge the loss suffered by the employees,” Judge Mansini said.
Judge Mansini found there was a need to impose a penalty to deter similar conduct.
“It is vital that penalty be imposed at a level which is sufficient as not to simply constitute a cost of doing business in the event that a disgruntled employee or regulator may investigate,” Judge Mansini said.
Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.